Gaallant send-off

Gaallant send-off
Netherlands' coach Louis van Gaal speaks to Netherlands' defender Ron Vlaar (R) at the end of the third place play-off football match between Brazil and Netherlands during the 2014 FIFA World Cup at the National Stadium in Brasilia on July 12, 2014.

THIRD-PLACE PLAY-OFF

BRAZIL 0 HOLLAND 3 (Robin van Persie 3-pen, Daley Blind 16, Georginio Wijnaldum 90+1)

One mission is accomplished. Another is about to begin.

Louis van Gaal took over Holland shortly after they were humiliated in Euro 2012, dumped out without recording a single point.

After defeating Brazil 3-0 in the third-place play-off in Brasilia yesterday morning (Singapore time), he leaves his nation restored and renewed, officially the third-best team in the world.

Now a very similar fixer-upper opportunity awaits in Manchester.

United fans have every reason to hope for a similar outcome.

Despite boasting just two indisputably world-class players in Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben, van Gaal was able to forge a disciplined, courageous team behind them, built with a combination of young talent or steely maturity.

They leave the World Cup undefeated, having been drawn into one of the most challenging groups.

KUYT FLIES LEFT, RIGHT

Ironically, for a man set to manage Manchester United, the player who best epitomises van Gaal's team is the former Liverpool player Dirk Kuyt.

A striker by trade, Kuyt has filled in at left wingback and right wingback during this tournament and has never given anything less than his all.

Misfiring or under-performing United players will take heart from the performances of men like Ron Vlaar.

An awkward-looking defender at Aston Villa, albeit while surrounded by inexperienced or incompetent colleagues, Vlaar has improved with every game, his last two performances being practically flawless.

For all of Luiz Felipe Scolari's protests afterwards, Brazil were always second-best, out-fought and out-thought from the start.

Scolari had called for a performance that would restore pride to the Brazilian nation.

Instead, his players served up another carnival of incompetence.

A fourth-placed finish was not what was expected this summer, but it is not the level of achievement that will see Scolari sacked, it is the standard of performance.

Once again, the Selecao were toothless at the front, slack in the middle and wide open at the back.

Scolari wanted consolation. Instead, he was given humiliation.

A 3-0 defeat means that his side have conceded an astonishing 10 goals in their final two games. He cannot survive this. The problems began almost immediately.

Robben stepped up through the gears and left Thiago Silva behind, but the Paris St Germain defender chased him, reached out and hauled him to the ground.

The offence began outside the box, but continued to the edge before Robben went down.

The decision to give a penalty was, therefore, probably correct.

The decision to only caution Silva, however, was the action of a coward.

If you ever required a textbook example of a clear goalscoring opportunity, this was it. And that was not the first glaring error by Djamel Haimoudi, the Algerian referee.

Brazil's day went from bad to worse after just 16 minutes when the Dutch doubled their advantage through Daley Blind.

LOUSY LUIZ

Again, a Brazilian was culpable but, this time, it was Silva's teammate at PSG next season, David Luiz.

The Qatari billionaires in charge of the French champions must be wondering what on earth they've paid for.

Jonathan de Guzman's cross was wayward until Luiz nodded it into the path of Blind, and the Ajax starlet made no mistake.

When Oscar was brought down in the box by Blind in the second half, referee Haimoudi booked him for diving. That decision was as wrong as he failed to award a penalty to Robben moments later. At least he was consistently bad.

Brazil tried to force their way back into the game, with Maicon and Oscar looking sporadically impressive, but there were so many gaps behind them that it always looked far more likely that they would concede rather than score.

And so it proved. With time running out, Robben released Daryl Janmaat on the flank and his cutback found Georginio Wijnaldum in space, obviously, in the Brazilian box. Naturally, he scored.

"I don't think we deserved for it to end like this," said Silva after the match. He was wrong. This was exactly what they deserved


This article was first published on July 14, 2014.
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